Bihar has apparently been a loser in the recent reshuffling and expansion of the union cabinet executed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While the all-important telecommunication department is snatched from talkative minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Giriraj Singh’s wings have also been chopped off by installing an additional face in his already ‘unimportant’ and small department of micro, small and medium enterprises.
Even BJP senior leader and Lok Sabha member from Begusarai, Bhola Singh, while addressing a public gathering, has displayed his annoyance over the ‘step-motherly’ treatment meted out to Bihar by the central leadership in the expansion of council of ministers. However, BJP leaders in Patna ridiculed Singh alleging “Bhola Singh is desperate to be inducted in the cabinet and his exclusion has turned him rebel”.
Before the expansion of the union cabinet, the political atmosphere in the state was clouded with the rumour of certain ministers having been dropped following their ‘non-performance’. The names of Radhamohan Singh minister of agriculture and farmers welfare, Ram Kripal Yadav, minister of state for rural development and Giriraj Singh, minister of state for micro, small and medium enterprises were doing the rounds.
Confirmed sources close to BJP leadership in Delhi revealed to Tehelka, “keeping in mind the assembly elections to be held in the neighboring Uttar Pradesh, the three ministers got a lease of their life”. In the cow belt that includes Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, caste equations are thicker than water. People are heard or seen to have been breathing, eating and sleeping on caste considerations. More so during elections periods. “The three ministers hail from the dominant castes of Rajput, Yadav and Bhumihar who constitute a sizeable vote bank in UP and, thus. removing them means inviting the wrath of their caste men”.
Neeraj Kumar, Janta Dal (U) MLC and party’s spokesperson, alleged, “the cabinet expansion by the Prime Minister is nothing but an eye-wash because the induction of the new faces in the ministry is aimed at assembly elections in UP, giving importance to the castes instead of performance of the inductees”.
He is also of the view that the BJP leadership was scared of losing the UP polls because of whirlwind tours of Nitish Kumar, Bihar chief minister and that was why the BJP had made the exercise accommodate the OBC into the cabinet.
It is nearer to the truth that the induction of Smt. Anupriya Patel, MP of Apna Dal, into the council of ministers is to woo the ‘Kurmi’ voters who are said to be slowly getting influenced by Nitish Kumar. In the past four months, Bihar CM has held at least half a dozen ‘workers’ meetings in the areas which are dominated by Kurmi caste men. There is all possibility of a merger of a group of Apna Dal led by the mother of Anupriya Patel into the Janta Dal (U) in days to come.
However, the senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi, pooh-poohed the claims made by Janta Dal (U) leaders. While speaking to Tehelka he said, “It is a proven fact that Nitish Kumar is a vote cutter for the elections that have taken place out of Bihar. His popularity in UP has apparently been minus zero with forfeiting of deposits of all the 295 candidates he had put up during 2012 assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh”.
Meanwhile, Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) chief and former railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav held the news faces taken in the union cabinet reshuffling as ‘useless’ with no experience to deliver goods for the welfare of the people. “Modi’s expansion is all set to ensure a complete rout of the saffron party from the Uttar Pradesh, similar to what happened in Bihar during the assembly elections held in October-November 2015,” he said.
The maverick Bihar leader hinted that move is in progress to have a Bihar-like alliance of like-minded party to defeat the BJP. That, a high profile disgruntled BJP MP and former union minister has predicted of dooming of saffron flags in the Bihar following no-inclusion of senior and competent leaders into the recent reshuffle.